Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/5/2011
Publication Date: 6/23/2011
Citation: Raper, R.L., Schwab, E.B., Arriaga, F.J., Balkcom, K.S., Price, A.J., Kornecki, T.S. 2011. Effects of Cover Crop Removal on a Cotton/Peanut Rotation. Transactions of the ASABE. Vol. 54(4):1213-1218. Interpretive Summary: Bioenergy crops have the potential to reduce our fuel dependence on international sources. Many areas of the U.S. may produce viable sources of biomass with the Southeastern U.S. having tremendous potential with favorable climate and soils for bioenergy production. Winter cover crops are one such potential resource that could be used for alternative purposes other than soil protection. A study was conducted to determine if harvesting of winter cover crops would have an adverse affects on the following cash crops and on succeeding winter cover crops. The study also examined if in-row subsoiling which is required for our compacted Southern soils could be conducted in the fall of the year to benefit both cash and winter cover crops. Results showed a yield reduction for both peanuts and cotton following removal of the winter cover crops but improved yields for the winter cover crops if the in-row subsoiling operation was moved to fall. Producers who wish to maximize their production of winter cover crops may want to conduct their in-row subsoiling in the fall of the year but also may want to reconsider harvesting any portion of their cover crop due to adverse yield effects on cash crops and the next year’s winter cover crop.
Technical Abstract: The Southeastern U.S. has a tremendous potential to grow a biomass crop during winter months when cash crops are not normally produced. These cover crops have proven to be extremely valuable to reduce soil erosion and improve soil quality. However, an opportunity to potentially harvest a portion of the cover crop for bioenergy purposes exists and needs to be considered to maximize production potential of Southeastern soils. An experiment was performed to determine if harvesting these cover crops could adversely affect soil properties or the following cash and cover crop yields. The experiment also included the effects of conducting an in-row subsoiling operation in the fall of the year. Results indicated that cotton and peanut cash crop yields declined by an average of 9% when the cover crop was harvested. Also, succeeding cover crop yields were reduced by 17% due to the harvesting of previous cover crops. Conducting an in-row subsoiling operation in the fall of the year prior to planting the cover crop increased cover crop biomass by more than 18% over spring in-row subsoiling but had little impact on cash crop yields. Recommendations from this study should include a caution to producers who may want to consider their cover crops as a potential bioenergy crop. Reductions in both cash and cover crop production can result if cover crops are harvested instead of left on the surface to enhance soil quality. Additionally, scheduling a necessary in-row subsoiling operation in the fall of the year instead of waiting until the spring will improve cover crop yields.